At the moment, there is no mandatory eye test for older drivers in the UK. However, some road safety organisations have called for it, according to Older Drivers. Some of these road safety organisations have argued that the current requirements for elderly drivers are inadequate and out of date. They also suggest that the DVLA should require evidence of an eyesight test at age 75, and that drivers should have vision checks every two years, especially for drivers ages from age 60, according to Express.
Driving after 70 – Learn how to renew licence
Did you know that one in 25 driving licence holders in Britain are aged the ripe old age 80 or above? Currently, the only times a driver’s eyesight must be tested are before the driving test and when a police officer tells them to read a licence plate at 20 metres.
A recent survey by YouGov revealed that 65% of British adults would support drivers aged 70 or above having to retake a practical test every three years to keep their licence.
Older drivers involved in serious crashes are more likely to have failed to look properly than younger motorists, according to Department for Transport (DfT) figures. Between 2016 and 2021, the error contributed to 30% of incidents such crashes in which at least one person was killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads involving drivers aged over 70, according to DIA.
What you need to know
No matter how old they get after getting their licence, drivers are not forced to take tests or have health checks done. The only thing that is required is that drivers over the age of 70 must apply for a new licence every three years, but they are not required to undergo a medical check to establish their fitness to drive. They can self-declare their state of health, says AutoCar.
For elderly drivers looking to renew their licence, here are some steps on how you can do that:
The DVLA should send you a D46P application form 90 days before your 70th birthday. You can also download it online or get it from the Post Office.
Fill in the form and return it to the DVLA with your current driving licence photocard. You may also need to include a new passport-type photo if you want to change the licence photo.
Alternatively, you can also renew online on the GOV.UK website. You’ll need an email address, your addresses for the last 3 years, your National Insurance number and a valid UK passport number.
Renewal of your licence is free of charge. You’ll need to renew your licence every 3 years after that.
You can drive while your licence is being renewed if you meet certain conditions, such as having the support of your doctor, having a valid licence and not being disqualified for any reason.
Which conditions do I have to declare to the DVLA?
Eyesight can deteriorate gradually over time, and it can be difficult to realise it has fallen below the minimum standard, which is you must be able to read a vehicle number plate from a distance of 20 metres (or from a distance of 20.5 metres for old style number plates). However, no matter how old we get after receiving our licence, drivers are not forced to take tests or have health checks done, though they are expected to notify the DVLA or Vehicle Licensing Agency if they become medically unable to drive.
You have to declare to the DVLA any medical condition or disability that could affect your driving safely. These include, but are not limited to:
diabetes or taking insulin
heart conditions (including atrial fibrillation and pacemakers)
You can check the full list of notifiable conditions on the GOV.UK website. You can also contact DVLA if you’re not sure what to do. If you don’t declare a condition that might affect your ability to drive safely, you could be fined up to £1,000 or prosecuted if you have an accident.
What the professionals say
West Sussex senior coroner Penelope Schofield sent a report to Transport Secretary Mark Harper and DVLA chief executive Julie Lennard which stated: “In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths could occur unless action is taken… at present there is no upper legal limit for drivers.”
She added: “There is a concern that if no checks are carried out a driver may be oblivious to their enduring medical condition.”
How likely am I to lose my licence if I declare medical conditions to the DVLA?
The good news is that even if you do have a medical condition, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t have a driving licence or that you will lose your licence. So long as your health condition or disability doesn’t affect your ability to drive safely, then you should be fine.
However, you must surrender your licence to DVLA if any of the following are true, according to Age UK:
your doctor tells you to stop driving for 3 months or more
your medical condition affects your ability to drive safely and lasts for 3 months or more
you do not meet the required standards for driving because of health conditions
You can apply to get your licence back when you meet the medical standards for driving again, if you wish to do so.
Local driver assessment schemes
Did you know that many local councils offer driver assessment schemes, as do Driving Mobility, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the Institute of Advanced Motorists?
Local driver assessment schemes are informal and confidential assessments that can help you improve your driving skills or adapt to any changes in your health or abilities, according to Age UK. They are not the same as resitting your driving test that’s for sure.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, stated that he opposes making people retake the entire driving test once they reach a particular age group.
But he believes there is a “strong case” for introducing a fitness to driving assessments for older motorists which focuses on “the visual, mental and physical skills needed to carry on driving safely”.
He added: “We would bring back compulsory eye tests for all drivers when they renew their photo-card licences.”
Mr Gooding said older drivers tend to “know their limitations” and are good at “self-regulating” when they take to the road, such as avoiding driving at night or during the busiest times of day.
Mobility centre driving assessments
Drivers aged 70 or above were behind the wheel of cars involved in 2,410 crashes on Britain’s roads in 2021 in which at least one person was killed or seriously injured.
With statistics like this to keep in mind, it’s no wonder that we now have mobility centre driving assessments available. If your medical condition or disability makes it more difficult to drive, then a Driving Mobility Centre can advise you on the best options for your particular circumstances.
There are over 20 Mobility Centres in the UK. You can self-refer by contacting your nearest centre, or by following the recommendation of a clinician, such as an Occupational Therapist or GP, according to Driving Mobility. The cost of the driving assessment will depend on whether you’re self-referring or if you have been sign-posted by another organisation or healthcare professional.
According to Driving Mobility, this type of driving assessment includes a medical assessment and an in-car driving assessment in a dual-controlled car. You’ll then receive a comprehensive report with recommendations for vehicle adaptations, further training or retirement from driving.
If the assessment shows that your medical condition makes it unsafe for you to drive, the DVLA can tell you to stop driving until it improves. Whether it be due to failing eyesight or problems with your peripheral vision, whatever it maybe, if this happens, you’ll need to reapply for your licence if and when you’re able to drive safely again.